MADISON, Wis. - On Thursday, an outside consulting firm officially released its full, nearly 250-page report on the policies and practices of the Madison Police Department, after it conducted a long-term and sometimes controversial $400,000 study into the department's policies and procedures.
The OIR Group presented its findings in front of a meeting of the city's ad hoc Committee on Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Thursday night.
While Chief Mike Koval has previously questioned the need for a study with a six-figure pricetag when the department is dealing with staffing issues, its authorization was broadly supported by city alders.
OIR released a preliminary report in November, highlighting some of its recommendations.
Consultants praised the department for its diversity, training programs and commitment to restorative justice programs.
"We begin by stating that MPD is far from 'a Department in crisis,' in spite of the controversy and turmoil that ultimately led to our project," the report states. "Instead, as detailed below, we found much to admire and commend. There are areas in which MPD is unusually progressive, effective, and 'ahead of the curve' when it comes to training and the evolution of best practices."
The report states, however, that the department has work to do in the area of community relations, specifically, how the agency handles critical incidents such as officer-involved shootings.
"In contrast to the approach of many other leading agencies, the response of MPD has been to vigorously defend to the hilt each involved officer's decision to use deadly force, and speak to those who deign to ask questions with resentment, defensiveness, or even hostility," the report said. "Unfortunately, we have also seen this defensiveness extend beyond a reluctance to be open about deadly force incidents."
"If a stakeholder questions the need for additional police resources over other resource demands, the immediate assumption seems to be a bothersome lack of support for law enforcement," the report goes on to say. "If a stakeholder declines to attend a Department graduation ceremony, that is immediately considered an overt sign of non-support. And if a community member expresses concern about an incident, he or she is too easily considered to be - and marginalized as being 'anti-police.'"
The firm highlighted what it calls "key recommendations:"
- The appointment of an independent auditor over the department
- Having the department collect additional data on community policing
- Implementing a formal evaluation process for all MPD employees, including the chief
- Developing a body camera policy prior to any purchase
- Installing a "more robust" administrative investigation and review of police shootings
- Holding town halls and listening sessions after police shootings and other controversial events
- Evaluating demographic data as it relates to use of force, arrests and citations to examine racial disparity trends
Before the report was released, Koval said on his department blog that he and other department staff would need time to read the full report before officially reacting to it.
"As a matter of 'process,' once the report has been formally accepted by the Ad Hoc Committee and made public, MPD will spend a month in crafting a comprehensive response to the various recommendations," Koval said. "By the end of January, we are confident that we will have an accessible response to the OIR report."
Koval added that he hoped the report would help improve the department.
"There have been candid conversations and opportunities to make OIR aware of our strengths as well as those areas that could be improved," he said. "At the end of the day, it is my hope there are elements brought forward in the OIR report that can be incorporated not only in the short term but also as a means of strategic planning for the future."
Consultants noted in November that certain recommendations would be challenging to implement. Some are intertwined with the department's union contract and could only be changed through collective bargaining, they said.
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